American Playhouse (1981– )
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The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez 

The retelling of an incident in Gonzales, Texas in 1901 revolving around a stolen horse, mistaken identity and a killing. An unusual story of the all too usual exploitation of the powerless in Texas History.


Robert M. Young




Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Edward James Olmos ... Gregorio Cortez
James Gammon ... Sheriff Frank Fly
Tom Bower ... Boone Choate
Bruce McGill ... Reporter Blakely
Brion James ... Captain Rogers
Alan Vint ... Mike Trimmell
Timothy Scott ... Sheriff Morris
Pepe Serna ... Romaldo Cortez
Michael McGuire ... Sheriff Glover
William Sanderson ... Cowboy
Barry Corbin ... Abernathy
Jack Kehoe ... Prosecutor Pferson
Rosanna DeSoto ... Carlota Muñoz
Buddy Vigil Buddy Vigil ... Skin
Zach Porter Zach Porter ... Fly's Posse


The entire cause of the problem evolves from the use of a deputy to translate. His command of Spanish is inadequate and he mistranslates what a witness tells the sheriff as to whether the real perpetrator of the crime is riding a mare (yegua) or a male horse (caballo). This error results in destroying a family and the death of an innocent man. Written by Dave Anderson

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The true story of one man who made a difference.


PG | See all certifications »


Official Sites:





English | Spanish

Release Date:

29 June 1982 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Balada de Gregorio Cortez See more »

Filming Locations:

Cerrillos, New Mexico, USA See more »


Box Office


$1,305,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$15,477, 21 August 1983, Limited Release

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The author of the book, Américo Paredes, hated this movie. According to Paredes, Gregorio Cortez did not shed one tear while he was in jail and yet, Cortez cries in the movie. Anytime someone would ask him his thoughts about the movie, he would be so angry about it that he would refuse to discuss the movie and instead, would have his wife tell them why he disliked it. See more »


In the movie Cortez appears to be riding to the border through the Texas Hill Country, traversing high hills covered in cedar with low mountains in the background, and arrives near the Rio Grande in a mountainous area - obviously in West Texas. In reality, Cortez rode south from Karnes County and was captured near El Sauz in Starr County, mostly flat area with very low hills, if any, then known as "the wild horse desert" filled with prickly pear cactus and mesquite - not at all like the countryside depicted in the movie. See more »


Boone Choate: Well, you know how it is in this business. One slipup... adios!
See more »


Featured in Songs of the Homeland (1995) See more »

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User Reviews

Important "border theory" film.
13 July 2003 | by Kathryn-17See all my reviews

Based on a true story, this is an important film that teaches us about racism, assumptions, and what can happen when someone's words are not correctly translated from one language to another. The filmmaker deliberately chose not to use subtitles, so if you don't speak Spanish you may feel a little frustrated because the Americans of Mexican descent speak only Spanish in the film. (90% of the dialogue is in English.) However, stick with the film to the end and you will understand why this director did not use subtitles. The story takes place on the border between Mexico and Texas and exposes the racist and violent history of the Texas Rangers. The film also demonstrates how media manipulation can create hysteria. A newspaper reporter accompanies the Texas Rangers on their hunt for fugitive Gregorio Cortez. The reporter interviews witnesses who fabricate a "gang" and "gang leader" when in fact there were none in this case. Edward James Olmos is mesmerizing in his first film role as Cortez. There is an "Old West" authenticity in this production that reminds us that most Hollywood Westerns are based only in a "Manifest Destiny" fantasy, not fact.

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